I’m so happy to announce that The Golden Boy Blogathon: a William Holden Celebration will be back again this year! William Holden is my second favourite actor and I truly enjoyed celebrating him via this blog last year. It was quite a success and everybody wrote marvellous pieces! So, it obviously had to be back! 🙂
Everybody is welcomed to participate. The event will take place from April 15 to April 17 (on Bill’s birthday), 2017.
As usual, there are some simple rules to follow:
1- Choose your subject. It can be anything related to William Holden. Please, no duplicates. William Holden had a long and beautiful career, so there are plenty of ideas. Of course, if you want to write something very personal like a tribute on why you love him (like I did last year), I can allow duplicates, because it’s a very vague topic. You can write more than one entry, but I would prefer you to limit yourself to two, precisely to give the chance to others to write about a topic they love (as I don’t allow duplicates).
2- Submit your subject by commenting on this post. You can also submit it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @Ginnie_SP or via The Wonderful World of Cinema’s Facebook Page. Give me the name of your blog, the URL, and your topic.
3- Once your choice has been confirmed, please grab one of these banners to help me promote the event on your blog. The more the merrier! 🙂
4- On twitter, use the following hashtag: #2GoldenBoyBlogathon
5- On the blogathon dates, April 15, 16 and 17, 2017, I will publish a new post where you’ll be able to submit your entries. You can also send them via email, Facebook or Twitter.
6- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And enjoy yourself! 🙂
The 70s was THE golden decade for catastrophe movies. Some of the best ones were made back then. Think of Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and, of course, The Towering Inferno. It’s on this one, release in 1974, that we will concentrate today.
The Towering Inferno was produced by Irwin Allen, known as the “Master of Disaster” (also produced The Poseidon Adventure), and directed by John Guillermin. Note: Irwin Allen directed the action scenes. The film, written by Stirling Silliphant, was a fusion of two books: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson.
The interesting thing is, before Irwin Allen at Fox had time to buy the rights of The Tower, Warner Bros. had already done so. Allen then got interested by The Glass Inferno and bought the rights. But instead of producing two movies that will obviously be very similar and be in competition, Fox and Warner decided to make a team and fused the two books together in one movie that became The Towering Inferno. It was the first collaboration between two major studios.
The Towering Inferno was obviously a big budget film, with its ton of special effects and, most of all, its all-star cast: Paul Newman, Steven McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, O.J Simpson, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, etc. A real Hollywood dream. The film cost around $14 000 000 to produce (around $68 000 000 today) and was a big commercial success, winning around $140 000 000 at the world box office on it’ release ($678 000 000 today). Being one of the most entertaining movies of all times, and with such a cast, the success was assured.
However, the critical reception was more mitigated. It generally was good, but was mostly criticized by builders for some inaccuracies.
Despite that, The Towering Inferno won the Oscar for Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc), Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress) and Best Original Song for “We May Never Love Like this Again” (Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn). It was nominated for Best Picture (Irwin Allen), Best Supporting Actor (Fred Astaire), Best Production Design (William J. Creber, Ward Preston, and Raphael Bretton), Best Original Score (John Williams) and Best Sound Mixing (Theodore Soderberg and Herman Lewis).
Ok, I’m talking a lot about this film’s production and reception, but it’s because there’s a lot to say. But before I’ll go further with my own appreciation of The Towering Inferno, let me resume the movie briefly for those who haven’t seen it.
Like most catastrophe movies, it’s pretty easy to explain: A new glass high-rise has just been built in San Francisco. It’s the tallest building in the world. Architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) is back in town for its inauguration. Once arrived, he meets the builder James Duncan (William Holden). However, on the same day of the inauguration, a short-circuit produced at the 81 floor causes a fire. Roberts accuses Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain), the electrical engineer, of being responsible. The ceremony takes place on the 135th floor, the last one. All those people will have to be evacuated before the fire kills them all. They will be helped by the courageous Michael O’Halloran (Steve McQueen), SFFD 5th Battalion Chief, and his team of firemen.
As you can see, it’s highly stressful.
What I found very interesting about the narrative lines of this film is how the spectator (us) sees the fire breaks before any character of the movies. Paul Newman & Co are looking for it in the building, but we know where it is before them and we see it growing. The suspense is perfectly established and the tension is more and more intense as the time passes.
The Towering Inferno is a movie I love, it’s a movie that worked well but, it’s not either a “masterpiece”. It has its faults. So, before talking all good about it, we will start by getting rid of these little imperfections.
First, sometimes, it’s too much. Well, I’m particularly thinking of this scene when [SPOILER] Dan Bigelow (Robert Wagner), the Public Relations Officer, and his secretary, Lorrie (Susan Flannery) are caught in the fire and eventually die. It is somehow too dramatic, with the big music, the slow motion, Lorrie who becomes crazy, etc. It somehow becomes funny. I’m sorry, but I didn’t cry in this scene. [End of spoilers]
It contains some catastrophe movies clichés. One of the best examples is, [spoiler] the cute couple who is separated by death. [end of spoiler]
And, something that I always found strange is why they didn’t show us reactions from people from the outside? I mean, this building is obviously in a popular neighbourhood of San Francisco, there’s obviously people walking in the streets. And when you see a building on fire, your first reaction is normally to stop and wonder what’s happening. The movie is mainly concentrated on the victims and the firemen, but I think it would have been interesting if we would have seen reaction shots of the simple witnesses.
But let’s stop this here because there’s also many good things to say about The Towering Inferno.
First, the cast. The cast is spectacular. In my opinion (and that’s just my opinion)… Ok, I was about to say ” the best performances were given by…” and then I realized I was about to name almost everybody. However, I can’t say I’ve been impressed by Richard Chamberlain (maybe because his character annoys me too much. I know it’s not a good reason), Robert Wagner or Susan Flannery. They were not bad and I know some can think they were great, but just not my favourites.
I can no talk about all the actors and all the performances, but let me give you an overview of my favourites.
Teaming Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, two of the most popular stars in the 70s, wasn’t a small thing. Initially, Ernest Borgnine was supposed to play the fireman and Steve McQueen was supposed to play the architect. He, however, preferred the other role and was cast as the fireman. Paul Newman was then cast as the architect. Things went fair for the two actors as they were both given the same exact number of lines and both received top billings. On the set, it was a friendly competition. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen are two actors that have a similar acting touch. They act with no pretension and are convincing by reminding simple. I’m more familiar with Paul Newman, but, in this film, I can’t say if I prefer Paul or Steve. They were both brilliant. I have to say I love this moment at the beginning when Paul Newman is introduced to us in the helicopter with his 70s style sunglasses. Such a badass!
Faye Dunaway was known as a difficult actress and often arrived late on the set (which highly annoyed William Holden), but despite that, she could only add good to this film as she had talent. Of course, her Susan Franklin is not as good as her Bonnie Parker or her Diana Christensen, but her performance remains one of the bests in the film. And Faye has always been a personal favourite of mine.
William Holden. Ah, William Holden! Well, I have to say that he is the main reason why I decided to watch The Towering Inferno for the first time (he is my second favourite actor after all)! Bill, even if he was getting older, had not lost his irresistible smile and his beautiful blue eyes. It might not be his most memorable performance, but I can’t help loving him as I love him in all his films. As I often said, William Holden was an actor full of sensibility and (subtlety). He never overacts and is always so hypnotizing. There’s this moment when he does a typical William Holden reaction and that’s perfect: toward the end, after he has spoken to Paul Newman, we can see he’s feeling guilty of what is happening. He has sad eyes and, I don’t know if you ever noticed that, but Bill sometimes does this little move with his chin and his mouth just like if he was trying not to cry. Breaks my heart!! 😥
Susan Blakely as Patty Simmons (Roger Simmons’s wife and James Duncan’s daughter) is an actress I had never heard of before. But hey, she’s cool! She is very touching and I think she inspires wisdom. At least, in this film. An intriguing and beautiful lady!
I will wrap up this actors section with Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones. It’s not surprising that Fred was nominated for Best Supporting actor. He is awesome! We are not only amazed by the way he acts, but also by the way he moves! We can see he was a professional dancer 😉 At 75, he still had an incredible posture. And Jennifer Jones, she is lovely as ever and also had an incredible energy. Unfortunately, it was her last film (not because she died, but because she simply decided to retire from acting in Hollywood). The two actors have a contagious chemistry and I think they made the best team of the film. I love when they dance together! (even if it lasts about 20 seconds…)
Bonus: I’ve always liked the character of Mark Powers, the fireman played by Ernie F. Orsatti. He is the young, cute fireman with not a lot of experience. He is scared at the beginning, but finds courage and becomes a hero. I also love Carlos, the barman played by Gregory Sierra. He probably is the most sympathetic character of them all.
Something I find priceless about the actors are some of their reactions. I’ve previously talked about the William Holden’s sad guilty face, but here are some other of my favourites: When Paul Newman speaks on the phone with William Holden and literally lost his temper: “WE’VE GOT A FIRE HERE!”; when William Holden punches Richard Chamberlain in the stomach (I might sound sadic, but this was deserved. #GoBill); when the two firemen, Scott (Felton Perry) and Mark (Ernie F. Orsatti) realize which building is on fire, etc.
Once again, I’m talking too much about the actors: I love the world of acting 😉
The Towering Inferno was also brilliant for many of its technical aspects. The special effects are incredibly impressive. You might not know this, but real fire was used in the filming. So, the cast and crew basically put themselves in danger to produce this film. It was an audacious thing to do and it worked successfully.
For its cinematography and its editing, The Towering Inferno also was at the top. Surely, what we remember the most from the cinematography is how the building on fire was filmed, but one scene that particularly caught my attention is when the first twelve selected women (including Jennifer Jones and Faye Dunaway) are in the glass elevator. The clear-obscure light is very beautiful, but also very strange. It inspires a moment of calm before the tempest.
We also have impressive aerial views of San Francisco at the beginning of the film. The city and its area are seen from Paul Newman’s helicopter’s point of view.
It’s hard to imagine how The Towering Inferno was filmed. Around 50 sets were used (most of them were burned for the cause of the film). But the job was done and that’s why Irwin Allen was the Master of Disaster.
And I bet it was not only a difficult movie to produce for its action and its special effects, but also for having to deal with all those top stars (no pressure…).
In the 70s, John Williams was starting to build himself a name as one of the most brilliant composers of Hollywood’s new generation. His score for Jaws is probably his most well-known one from the 70s, but his score for The Towering Inferno is unforgettable too. With those aerial shots I was talking about, it makes the movie starts in a very dynamic way. It’s an epic score that fits perfectly the atmosphere of the film or any catastrophe movie. It’s the sound of panic on a hot nightmare. No wonder why he received an Oscar nomination. He lost to Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola for The Godfather Part II. Were also nominated this year Jerry Goldsmith for Chinatown, Alex North for Shanks and Richard Rodney Bennett for Murder On the Orient Express. Ok, the competition was hard, and that’s one of these moments when you’d like to give the award to everybody.
Even if The Towering Inferno is a dramatic movie, it contains some moments of humour. Those are rare, very rare, but are highly appreciated. The first one I think about is when Dan Bigelow (Robert Wagner) arrives in James Ducan’s office. Duncan is here with Roberts and engineer Will Giddings (Norman Burton). Dan is all happy and proud to show them the giant scissors to cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the glass tower. But when he shows them the scissors, nobody reacts, everybody seems concerned and somehow depress to what he says: “What happened? Somebody hang a wallpaper upside down?” This really makes me laugh. Then they tell him a fire might be burning in the building…
There’s also this very sympathetic scene when Harry Jernigan (O.J Simpson), the Chief Security Officer, save Lisolette Mueller (Jennifer Jones)’s cat from the flames.
There’s so much to say about The Towering Inferno! And if you’re still curious to know more about it, I highly recommend you to watch this very interesting mini-documentary on its making. Just for Paul Newman’s bloopers, it’s worthy! Here is part 1 of 2 (you’ll find the other one easily):
The Towering Inferno was not only one the best catastrophe movies ever made, but also a majestic tribute to firemen. It’s a movie that makes you realize how this is a hard and courageous profession.
So, if you’re in for 2h30 of pure thrill and entertainment, The Towering Inferno is for you. I assure you, you won’t be bored a minute and will admire every moment of it for everything I’ve previously said in this article.
When I think about the fact that William Holden is now my second favourite actor (after James Stewart), it makes me realize how a person’s tastes can change. We’re celebrating today what would have been his 98th anniversary and, for the occasion, I’m hosting my first William Holden Blogathon, aka The Golden Boy Blogathon. For my contribution, I’m going to explain how he became a favourite of mine, and why.
First time I saw William Holden on screen, it was in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina released in 1954. That was a good thing to start with as Holden was a Billy Wilder’s favourite, having starred in four of his films (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Sabrina and Fedora). Only, I decided to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn. As I wasn’t looking for him, I didn’t really pay attention to his acting (not to admit that I didn’t really care for him at the time and not to mention that his role in this film is not my favourite). Anyway, I then saw some other films with him: The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) and The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954). But, once again, I was paying attention to some other actors and not to him. Poor Bill! How I was cruel to him!
Title: BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE ¥ Pers: HOLDEN, WILLIAM ¥ Year: 1957 ¥ Dir: LEAN, DAVID ¥ Ref: BRI016DR ¥ Credit: [ COLUMBIA / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
But, one day, I borrowed Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) at my school library. I can still see myself looking at the dvd cover to see the names of the actors who were starring in this film. When I saw Holden’s name, I said to myself “Him again! I think I should pay more attention to him this time.” Of course, I had too as he is the main actor in this film…
I didn’t regret because Sunset Boulevard is the film that made him a favourite of mine. Immediately after I saw this film, I put him on my favourite actor’s list. I still think his performance in this film is one of his best. It’s so… honest! He was nominated for an Oscar, but lost it to José Ferrer for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Of course, he wasn’t very high on my favourite actors’ list, but he was here, so that’s the most important. Anyway, as I enjoyed him in Sunset Boulevard it made me want to watch more of his films. If you remember, last year, I even did a William Holden’s marathon and watched 15 of his films, plus Sunset Boulevard again and that hilarious I Love Lucy’s episode! And I watched three more for the blogathon. So, with a total of 25 films viewed, he his the actor from whom I have seen the most films.
After I did my marathon, I put him on the 5th place in my favourite actor’s list. But the more I was thinking about him, the more I was fond of him and couldn’t resist putting him in the second position. Seriously, he is really fantastic (and quite handsome too, we have to admit it)!
So, when I think that, now, he is my second favourite actor of all times and I used to “not care” about him, I really laugh at myself.
Actually, there are several reasons why he is a favourite of mine. One of the first is his versatility as an actor. To me, he will always be one of the most verstatile actors to have ever grace the screen. Of course, it’s by seeing many of his films that I realized that. He could play a tough guy (The Wild Bunch), a sensible one (Our Town), both in the same film (Golden Boy). He could be romantic (Dear Ruth) or not really (Sabrina). He could be serious (The Devil’s Brigade, Sunset Boulevard) or funny (The Remarkable Andrew), and even more. And he excelled at transmitting to us all this myriade of emotions.
He was even good at playing himself! Look at him in this I Love Lucy‘s episode: William Holden playing William Holden in an humorous way is one of the best things that ever happened to classic television.
Of course, something about William Holden that makes me completely gaga is his irresistible smile. *Sight*… He’s such a cutie pie when he smiles. I wish he was my neighbour you know. And he had the perfect ability to not only smiles with his mouth, but also with his eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes. Of course, physical appearance is not the most important thing about an actor, talent is, but I HAVE to say it: I have a big crush on him!! I love men with dark hair and blue eyes (and an irresistible smile). So Holden is pretty much the perfect model.
Except his acting talent and his beauty, I have to say Bill began to have a very important place in my heart when I saw him in one of his very early films: Golden Boy. Thanks to his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, to whom William Holden will always be her “Golden Boy”, who recognize her talent, he was able to be accepted in the world of movie stars. We don’t remember him much for this film, but it played an important role in his career. Not to mention that it was his first credited film. As he is my age in this film (21), I can sort of identity to him (and also because he plays violin and I used to play the violin). Talking about violin, there this scene which is for me one of the most touching of Bill’s career. Bill as Joe Bonaparte is back home and discovers the violin his father (Lee J. Cobb) had bought to him for his birthday. He is marvelled by this musical treasure and can’t resist playing. When he plays, there’s so much softness, so much tenderness in him. Then his family and a neighbour come to listen to him. His father has tears in his eyes when he sees him doing what he loves. We wished this beautiful and emotional scene would last forever! With his Bambi eyes, all we want is to take care of this golden boy.
I read, in one of the articles for the blogathon, that William Holden often played very independent characters. I pretty much agree. We feel he knows what he wants and will find a way to do it. Yes, he can succumb to the temptation like in Sunset Boulevard or Golden Boy, but he knows how to say no, no matter what the consequences are. Our Golden Boy certainly knew how to transmit an unique and strong personality to each one of his characters.
He, of course, started his career very young (in his early 20s) and ended it in his early 60s when he passed away. If Barbara Stanwyck, THE Barbara Stanwyck, believed in him, it’s because he indeed had something to give to us. He grew up and the screen grew with him. He took an important and significant maturity, but that never shadowed his earlier performances that sculptured his talent. Holden was one of the actors who knew perfectly how to travel in time. When the cinema modernized itself, he modernized himself with him. He’s one of these timeless actors, you know.
I told you previously that I didn’t know that much about William Holden’s personal life. That’s true. I haven’t read a biography about him and concentrated more on his films. The stuff I know about his personal life mostly is what everybody already knows: his relations with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, his wedding to Brenda Marshall and, unfortunately, his tragic death due to reasons that I don’t want to talk about today as I’m here to honour him. Because that’s the thing: I think today William Holden would have liked to be remembered for the good he gave to this world and the history of cinema. Oh, Golden Holden was so devoted to his profession! I read about it very recently in an article from April 1956’s Photoplay written by his personal secretary. She explains how much he did for his job, too much, and how stimulating it was to work for him. He was also very independent in real life and didn’t need a servant to bring him his coffee. He wasn’t lazy, that’s for sure!
William Holden’s talent was recognized by the Academy in 1954 when they gave him a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). Being rushed for a time’s matter, his acceptance speech is known has one of the shortest of film history, being limited to “Thanks you! Thank you!” I honestly hate the Academy for having put such pressure on him. Maybe he had important things to say! We don’t win an Oscar every night. Poor Bill, he seemed so shy. Fortunately, he seemed to have a good sense of humour. The following year, when he was presenting the Best Actress Oscar, he made a joke by saying to the public “As I was going to say last year… [Bob Hope comes whispering in his hear. He looks at his watch]…Well, time is running short again” (!) This night, he gave the Oscar to Grace Kelly, who were her co-star in The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954). Oh! His smile when he read her name! We know he was happy for her!
Stalag 17 was William Holden’s only Oscar. He also was nominated for his performances in Sunset Boulevard and Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). This last one proving that, 25 years after his first nomination, he hadn’t lost is talent.
I don’t know where our Golden Boy is now, but he surely is in each heart of those who love and loved him: his family, his friends, his girlfriends and even his fans. He is not with us anymore, but he would probably have been thrilled to know that people still find a way to honour him. Giving him the right remembrance was very important to me, that’s why I created the Golden Boy Blogathon. I invite you to read all the marvellous entries by clicking on the following link:
I was so impatient for this event to finally start! But after almost 3 months of patience, it’s finally here! The Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Celebration is the occasion for us, bloggers, to honour this wonderful actor who would have been 98 on April 17, 2016. The events starts today and will take an end on Holden’s birthday.
We know that Holden was a great actor, but, somehow, he doesn’t seem to be as much celebrated as some others like James Stewart or Cary Grant. That’s why we are here today to make that change. Wherever you are, this is for YOU William!
Bloggers (those who participate), once your article is published, I invite you to submit it here in the comment section. Don’t forget to provide me the link! You can also send it to me via e-mail: email@example.com, Twitter: @Ginnie_SP or by messaging The Wonderful World of Cinema Facebook Page. I will add your entry to the roster when I’ll receive it.
Readers (and bloggers), make sure to take a look at all the wonderful entries written by more than 20 talented writers who always make me proud of being a member of the film bloggers community. I’m sure you’ll love it!